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Episode 43: How to and Why You Should Email Your Donors TODAY!

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As I'm recording this, there’s a pandemic going on. Still. It’s Good Friday – Easter weekend is here, and a few weeks ago, I thought, OH FOR SURE we are going to be in church on Easter Sunday – everything is going to be open up again, and this whole social distancing thing will be over. 

Well, it’s not. There is not a single Mass or church service scheduled at one single church in our town this weekend. Everything is still closed. It’s not safe yet to be in big crowds. Things aren’t back to normal. 

So how, when our normal way of life is ANYTHING BUT NORMAL – how are we supposed to do things like run a nonprofit organization that can’t serve in a normal way?

Whether your nonprofit is open and you’re wearing a face mask, gloves and PPE every day, or your organization is closed for the time being, there is still a very important thing you can, and must be doing right now. Something that will help you now, and it will give you a MAJOR advantage for the future. What is it? Email.

Email your donors, supporters and board members. Yes, send out an email to these people once a week.

Maybe you’re thinking - LAUREN, I don’t know what to write in an email – I hate it, that’s why I only do it once a quarter…or once a year! 

Or maybe you’re thinking… I don’t know what to say to these people IN PERSON, much less what to say in an email.

Or maybe you’re thinking… I only send out emails when we’re about to have a fundraiser or an end of the year appeal.

Or maybe you’re thinking… I only have email addresses for 5 people. I can’t start with that.

I’m telling you, START. The email I’m talking about is not the same as writing a quarterly newsletter sent by US Mail… It’s not a two-page letter. It’s not an overview of everything you’re doing. Your email is simply saying, “We’re still here and serving!”

You’re not sitting down for a long visit and a cup of coffee. You’re just checking in with a high five.

Here’s the thing. If you want to have a robust group of donors – people who support you financially – you have to have a relationship with them. A relationship built over time and consistently. Consistency means you email them REGULARLY. Think of your emails as a really long breadcrumb trail to your next fundraiser.

If you’re at home right now because of COVID-19, you can begin to reach out every week to your donors by email.

Add to the email list any people who support and love your organization but haven’t given money – YET – and add your board members too.

Use this time to your advantage! You might not be serving in your normal capacity, or your normal way. Maybe you’ve had to shut down operations all together – but that doesn’t mean you have to stop growing your nonprofit. 

Even if you haven’t sent emails before on a regular basis, start now. They will help you build relationships. You CAN keep reminding your donors that your organization is STILL HERE. You can tell them how you’re finding new ways to serve, that you’re using this time wisely, and that their support means everything to you and the people you serve.

So – here’s the game plan. Are you ready? This is my challenge to you.

Send an email to your donors and supporters once a week – start this week!

Here’s how to do it:

First, use a free email hosting system like Mailchimp or Constant Contact 

  • It will allow you to build a professional-looking email
  • It will keep track of your email list in an organized way

They are both super easy and user friendly. Either one you choose is easy to set up. Set up a free account today so you can send that email this week.

Second, what goes in the email?

Every email needs:

  • Your logo, or at least a picture of something that represents your organization. Put it in the header and also link the logo to your website or Facebook page.
  • A short letter of 3-5 sentences talking to your donors. Tell a story, describe something that happened. Don’t get too lengthy – keep your entire email to less than 200 words or 20 lines. And remember what everyone thinks: “What’s in this for me?” when you’re writing your email.
  • Links – This is where you say “Follow us on Facebook!” and put a link to your Facebook page or “Learn more about our organization” and put a link to your website, or give some kind of call to action that will encourage the reader to do more.

  • An interesting, punchy subject line – You can save writing the subject line for last, then you can take some ideas from your email and turn it into something that will make someone want to open your email.

The most important thing - make your emails about your donors and supporters. 

WHAT? Yes, make it about them. 

For example, let’s just say you’re writing a quick email to touch base with your donors and update them this week on the fact that you’re still closed… How could you possibly make it about THEM?

First, thank them for supporting and praying for your organization in this difficult time.

Second, update them on what’s going on with your organization this week – be sure to say thanks for any support you’ve received whether it was donations of items or the card they sent.

Third, serve them. Think about your donors – what are they doing? How are they coping? What are their challenges and struggles right now? What can you do to serve them? 

I’ve been getting some good emails from nonprofits doing this lately – they’ve served their supporters by sharing links to free classical music on YouTube, a link to the 5 Love Languages quiz for people to take while they’re staying at home, a link to the CARES Act information for small business owners and links to Small Business Survival Guides from the US Chamber of Commerce. Those are just a few examples.

YOU don’t have to come up with the content to share – you don’t have to write a whole article on your blog about the CARES Act or record a video of yourself singing songs for entertainment. Just share with them a little something that will let them know that you’re thinking of them. By doing this, you’re cultivating positive, good feelings with them. 

Every time they see your email in their inbox, they’ll know that something good is waiting for them inside.

If you show them gratitude and grace by serving them, they will remember. Their loyalty and support of your organization will grow.

If you start now, by the time your next fundraiser event comes around, you’ll be ready to reach out to your donors and supporters to ask them to attend because you’ve been cultivating your relationship with them, giving to them. 

They’ve been hearing from you. Their positive feelings toward your organization have been growing because every time they see your email, they know it’s you touching base, checking in, quickly letting them know what’s up and supporting them. 

Don’t let them forget about you in this crazy time. They want to know what’s going on with your organization. Give them that quick weekly update, say thank you, and serve them with something helpful or entertaining for them.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, you have the choice to crumble under the circumstances and lie down in the face of adversity, or you have the opportunity to show everyone just how amazing and strong your organization is. Keep showing up. Send out that weekly email! Use this time to your advantage! Your donors will take notice. 

You are doing an amazing job! Keep going! Thank you for not giving up!

Remember to subscribe to Unlocking Your Nonprofit Potential wherever you get your podcasts.

Links mentioned in this episode:


Constant Contact

If you have any questions – I’m right here for you! Ask away! Send me a message on Facebook or Instagram or send me an email and I’ll happily write you back with an answer! 


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